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Committee on Climate Change: Progress Report

Volume 804: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Committee on Climate Change Reducing UK Emissions: 2020 Progress Report to Parliament, published on 25 June.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question in my name on the Order Paper and declare my interests as set out in the register.

My Lords, the Government welcome the committee’s comprehensive and wide-ranging report and agree with it that tackling climate change should be at the heart of our economic recovery. The actions we need to take to achieve our world-leading net-zero target can help to deliver a stronger, cleaner and more resilient United Kingdom following this pandemic. The Government will publish their full response to the CCC by 15 October, as required by the Climate Change Act.

I am grateful to the Minister for that response. As he knows, the report concludes that steps the UK has taken in the past year

“do not yet measure up to meet the size of the Net Zero challenge”

and calls for urgent, concerted and cross-government action in the run-up to COP 26 next year. It also, as he says, sets out how economic stimulus measures to recover from the present global catastrophe of Covid-19 can contribute to averting the impending, even greater global catastrophe of unmitigated climate change. Will Her Majesty’s Government therefore commit to a comprehensive policy of creating sustainable jobs and infrastructure across the UK, including in low-carbon power and heating, decarbonising transport and improvements in broadband connectivity?

The noble Baroness makes some very powerful points. As I said, we will respond formally to the committee in October, but the Prime Minister set out yesterday a number of measures that we will be taking. He said that we will build back better, we will build back greener and we will build back faster. The committee has made a number of recommendations in all the areas she covers, listed by specific government department, and we will respond in due course.

Can the Minister tell the House whether the new homes that will be built under the initiatives announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will be zero-carbon homes? If not, can he explain why the Government are ignoring the clear recommendations of the climate change committee and undermining their own net-zero target?

We are not ignoring the recommendations of the committee. As I said, we will respond in due course, but the noble Lord makes an important point about the importance of getting carbon out of new homebuilding. We will be publishing a heat and building strategy in due course.

My Lords, I welcome the positive progress on a new climate risk disclosure framework for pension trustees under the Pension Schemes Bill. I ask my noble friend whether the Government will build on this positive progress by introducing a comprehensive, long-term road map, with a timetable, for the investment sector to align investments with our net-zero targets?

My noble friend has considerable expertise in this field and I thank her for all her contributions on the Pension Schemes Bill. She rightly pointed out that the Department for Work and Pensions is taking powers to introduce mandatory climate financial disclosure for all occupational pension schemes. Of course, we are not stopping at pension schemes, and last year’s green finance strategy made it clear that we want all listed companies and large asset-owners disclosing in line with the task force on climate-related financial disclosures by 2022.

My Lords, it is terrific that we have a clear net-zero target, but if we are to show leadership in the run-up to COP 26, we must ensure that the UK is measuring its own emissions properly. Will the Government respond to the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to include aviation and shipping in our UK climate targets when the sixth carbon budget is set? Will they develop urgent net-zero plans for those challenging sectors?

Yes, of course we will respond to the committee’s recommendations. The noble Baroness is quite right to point out the importance of getting the metrics right and making sure that we are being assessed against the right targets.

A key challenge contained in this excellent report is to decarbonise heat and reduce demand through home efficiency measures. What plans and discussions has the Minister had with his colleagues in the Treasury to ensure that households and businesses installing energy-efficient and low-carbon heating are materially better off, in addition to reducing their emissions?

The Chancellor will be setting out our financial policies in this area when he makes his Statement but, as I said in an earlier answer, we will be publishing a heat and building strategy in due course, which will address many of these issues. The noble Lord’s point is well made.

My Lords, in its Future Support for Low Carbon Heat consultation, BEIS acknowledges the significant role that heat pump technology will play. Why, then, is the support proposed for heat pump technology restricted to 45 kilowatts, and therefore small-scale domestic settings, cutting out even those currently deployed or planned for supermarkets, schools, universities and businesses? If we are to build back greener, is not this technology worthy of support?

I very much agree with the noble Baroness that heat pump technology requires support. In line with our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, we consider the role of heat pumps in driving down emissions extremely important. This includes large-scale heat pumps. We have the clean heat grant, designed as part of a wider package of measures to support the decarbonisation of heat. The focus of the scheme is on supporting the supply chains that will be needed to phase out the installation of high-carbon fossil fuels in heating and take it off the gas grid.

I take forward the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, about zero-carbon housing. Can the Minister assure the House that all of the recovery schemes announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will be subject to a net-zero carbon test and a biodiversity recovery test to ensure that we do not lurch from the Covid crisis immediately to the climate change and biodiversity crisis?

The noble Baroness makes an important point and, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, we will be setting out our plans, publishing a heat and building strategy in due course. We will take these important points on board.

My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. Does my noble friend agree that this recession is caused by suppressing supply, not by insufficient demand, so we need to rebuild the supply of goods and services as rapidly as possible across the board? If we limit growth, as the CCC advises, to activities complying with green criteria, we will recover less rapidly than otherwise. If we invest in activities which absorb more resources than they produce—that is, those needing subsidy—we will not increase net supply. Will he treat with a pinch of salt demands by the CCC and others, which use the Covid crisis as an excuse to turn the hose of subsidies in their direction?

As we recover from Covid-19, we certainly want to deliver a UK economy which is cleaner, stronger, more sustainable and more resilient. Covid-19 has been a powerful reminder of the UK’s vulnerability to systemic risks. Fortunately, job creation and a clean, resilient recovery can be mutually reinforcing, and meeting net zero and our other environmental goals can create employment and economic opportunities.

My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. Yesterday, the Met Office published a new study that concludes that, under some scenarios, temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius could occur regularly by the end of the century. Can the Minister tell us, now or in writing, what proportion of buildings in the UK are designed to cope with those temperatures and whether all new buildings, including homes, schools and hospitals, will be built to cope with extreme heat?

As I said in an earlier answer, we will set out our plans for a heat and building strategy in due course, but I would be happy to respond in writing to the noble Lord’s detailed question about the proportion required.

My Lords, the independent Committee on Climate Change report very much focuses on the fact that territorial emissions have been counted but consumption emissions have not. In fact, it says that

“89% of the emissions associated with the UK’s demand for manufactured products”

are emitted outside the UK. Will the Government shift toward seeing how we can cut those consumption emissions? Also, given that we know we will see a great deal of onshoring in the light of Covid-19—indeed, we heard discussion about this during the earlier Oral Question on China and supply chains—what steps will be taken to ensure that onshoring of manufacturing occurs in a way that produces the lowest possible amounts of carbon?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. She is of course right to point out that reducing our emissions in this country is fine but, if we just import emissions from other countries, we will have achieved nothing. That is why we have an ambitious outreach and diplomacy strategy to persuade other countries to follow our lead. As the noble Baroness will know, we have the most optimistic and far-reaching targets in the western world. She is right: we must make sure that, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we build back greener and build back better.

Sitting suspended.